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American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country.

American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country.

American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 27, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Ross, 23, eats a Thanksgiving Day meal from a styrofoam container at a security checkpoint at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. On his first deployment, Ross said the holiday fare was better than the usual meals.

U.S. Air Force Airman 1st Class John Ross, 23, eats a Thanksgiving Day meal from a styrofoam container at a security checkpoint at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. On his first deployment, Ross said the holiday fare was better than the usual meals. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

American soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division eat a Thanksgiving Day meal on Thursday,  Nov. 26, 2015, at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Commanders used the holiday to catch up and spend time with their troops.

American soldiers with the 10th Mountain Division eat a Thanksgiving Day meal on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015, at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan. Commanders used the holiday to catch up and spend time with their troops. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

Hundreds of U.S. and coalition servicemembers and contractors packed dining halls full of tables overflowing with food for the Thanksgiving holiday at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Turkey-shaped cakes, ice sculptures and decorative baked cornucopias dotted the room.

Hundreds of U.S. and coalition servicemembers and contractors packed dining halls full of tables overflowing with food for the Thanksgiving holiday at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Turkey-shaped cakes, ice sculptures and decorative baked cornucopias dotted the room. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country.

American troops dish out a Thanksgiving Day meal at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Nearly 10,000 American servicemembers remain in the country. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

American and coalition servicemembers at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan eat a Thanksgiving meal near a diorama of Pilgrims and Native Americans on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. The dining hall, run by a private contracting company, was decked out for the holiday.

American and coalition servicemembers at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan eat a Thanksgiving meal near a diorama of Pilgrims and Native Americans on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. The dining hall, run by a private contracting company, was decked out for the holiday. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

American and coalition troops eat Thanksgiving dinner at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday,  Nov. 26, 2015. Hundreds of servicemembers and other base residents showed up for the holiday meal.

American and coalition troops eat Thanksgiving dinner at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thursday, Nov. 26, 2015. Hundreds of servicemembers and other base residents showed up for the holiday meal. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

A contractor dressed in a turkey suit greets servicemembers at a dining hall at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015. Other contractors dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans.

A contractor dressed in a turkey suit greets servicemembers at a dining hall at Bagram Air Field in Afghanistan on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015. Other contractors dressed as Pilgrims and Native Americans. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

American servicemembers from Florida Air and Army National Guard units play a game of touch football in a muddy yard at Bagram Air Field on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015.

American servicemembers from Florida Air and Army National Guard units play a game of touch football in a muddy yard at Bagram Air Field on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

American servicemembers from Florida Air and Army National Guard units play a game of touch football in a muddy yard at Bagram Airfield on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015.

American servicemembers from Florida Air and Army National Guard units play a game of touch football in a muddy yard at Bagram Airfield on Thanksgiving Day, Nov. 26, 2015. (Josh Smith/Stars and Stripes)

BAGRAM AIR FIELD, Afghanistan — Long lines of American servicemembers arriving for a Thanksgiving meal at dining halls here on Thursday were greeted by surreal scenes of eagle-shaped ice sculptures, dioramas of Pilgrims and Native Americans and contractors in turkey costumes.

In a bid to make troops feel a little bit of home on the Thanksgiving holiday, dining halls went all out with lavish meals of roast turkey, ham, prime rib and tables piled high with pies and turkey-shaped cakes.

Troops said their jaws dropped as they saw the loaded tables.

“The food was definitely better than every other day,” said Airman 1st Class John Ross, a 23-year-old native of Mountain Home, Idaho. About 10,000 American servicemembers remain in Afghanistan. A stubborn insurgency challenging Afghan forces has delayed plans to withdraw almost all those troops by next year.

Coalition allies also seemed to enjoy the holiday fare and over-the-top decorations. “I think the Polish were into it more than the Americans,” Ross said.

Some troops braved a muddy field full of puddles, rocks, and the occasional metal stake to play a game of touch football.

Some young airmen on their first deployments said, despite the limited festivities, it felt like any other day.

“I haven’t been home for Thanksgiving since I joined the Air Force three years ago,” said Senior Airman Kyle Maldonado, 22. Back home in Tucson, Ariz., his wife and two-year-old daughter are celebrating with family. “The wife’s not really feeling this being apart for the holidays, but it’s what I have to do.”

A half-dozen members of Congress arrived to eat with servicemembers from their home states. They were: Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo., and Reps. Beto O’Rourke, D-Texas, Phil Roe, R-Tenn., Mark Takano, D-Calif., Mike Coffman, R-Colo., Ann McLane Kuster, D-N.H., and Ralph Abraham, R-La.

smith.josh@stripes.com Twitter: @joshjonsmith

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